The long-awaited Apple iPhone 5 is launched amidst strong rivalry with Samsung and Google, which is seen as a shot by the Apple Inc to widen its base in the smartphone market, which accounts for $219.1 billion.

Named iPhone 5, this new smartphone is designed with a sleek and smart look and will have a large 4-inch screen. The iPhone 5 is made thinner and lighter as compared to its predecessors.

This latest sixth-generation smartphone will also sport a faster processor, new mapping software and enhancements to the voice-recognition feature Siri.

With this smartphone, Apple has redesigned the hardware of the product since 2010.

There has been a plethora of handheld-touchscreen devices in the market that provide speedy Web downloads and a range of games, entertainment and productivity tools, and with iPhone 5 Apple seeks to stay ahead of competitors including Samsung, Google, Microsoft Corp. and Nokia Oyj in a market that surged 78 percent last year.

Launching a new iPhone is always critical for Apple as the firm only comes with one device a year. Since the introduction of first iPhone in 2007 till its previous iPhone 4S, Apple has sold more than 244 million units. The iPhone device accounts for about two-thirds profit for Apple, which has a market value of above $620 billion that made the firm most valuable in the world.

The latest sixth iPhone by Apple will work on 4G LTE wireless data networks, which is being introduced by companies including AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless. However, Samsung and Google’s Motorola Mobility have already introduced LTE handsets, which carriers say enables quicker video, music and other content downloads, compared with the existing 3G wireless networks.

Apple added a bigger screen to iPhone 5, following the trend started by other handset makers, including Samsung, HTC Corp. and Motorola Mobility.

The latest iPhone 5 also has tighter integration with Facebook Inc., letting users quickly post pictures, links and other content easily.

Apple also worked on to enhance the speech-command service Siri, and added features that now let users search for sports scores and make dinner reservations simply by speaking to the smartphone.

Apple is expected to sell as many as 10 million iPhone units by the end of September.

Apple also introduced its own mapping software that replaced Google Maps. The firm has also removed Google’s online video service, YouTube, from the batch of applications preinstalled on the iPhone.

The announcement of iPhone 5 was one of the most anticipated events of the year with millions of users waiting for the mystery to unveil.